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What to know about the World Central Kitchen attack in Gaza

International outrage came quickly after an Israeli attack killed six foreign aid workers of U.S.-based aid group World Central Kitchen and their Palestinian driver in Gaza on Monday.

The group said staff from Australia, the United Kingdom, Poland and a U.S.-Canada citizen were killed in the strike, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later admitted came at the hands of the Israeli army but said it was “unintentional.”

Founded in 2010 by Spanish-American Michelin-starred chef Jose Andres, World Central Kitchen (WCK) has been one of the few aid groups to be able to deliver food to Gaza, where a humanitarian crisis is mounting thanks to a brutal Israeli military campaign against Hamas in the enclave.

Here’s what we know about the attack and the Western response so far.

The basic facts

The nonprofit said its team was leaving a warehouse and driving through a “deconflicted” area in Deir el-Balah when their convoy of “two armored cars branded with the WCK logo and a soft skin vehicle” were struck.

The three vehicles were targeted in three separate strikes, with the first and last taking place nearly 1.5 miles apart, according to aerial views of the damage posted to social media.

The attacks took place even after the group said it had coordinated its movements with the Israeli military, according to a WCK press release.

WCK, which focuses on feeding people during major conflicts and disasters across the globe, has paused its operations in Gaza following the tragedy.

“The Israeli government needs to stop this indiscriminate killing. It needs to stop restricting humanitarian aid, stop killing civilians and aid workers, and stop using food as a weapon,” the chef wrote on X after the attack. “No more innocent lives lost. Peace starts with our shared humanity. It needs to start now.”

And WCK CEO Erin Gore said the strike was “not only an attack against WCK, this is an attack on humanitarian organizations showing up in the most dire of situations where food is being used as a weapon of war. This is unforgivable.”

Israel’s response

Netanyahu, who had recently been discharged from the hospital following a hernia surgery, acknowledged a “tragic event in which our forces unintentionally harmed non-combatants in the Gaza Strip.”

“This happens in war,” he said in a statement. “We are conducting a thorough inquiry and are in contact with the governments. We will do everything to prevent a recurrence.”

Israeli military spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari later said its officials are opening an investigation to examine the incident.

“We have been reviewing the incident in the highest levels to understand the circumstances of what happened and how it happened,” Hagari said in a video message Tuesday.

More on World Central Kitchen

WCK works to get hot meals to people caught in the midst of conflicts, natural disasters and other crises, including war, civil unrest, earthquakes, hurricanes, flooding and other climate change-related events. The group links up with local chefs, trains cooks and supports farmers to deliver food.

WCK has been in Gaza since shortly after the war began in October and has used a variety of ways to get food into the territory, including land convoys and airdrops from Jordan and a team in Cairo, Egypt that has dispatched more than 1,700 trucks through Rafah Crossing.

WCK has been the lead in efforts to get food into Gaza as Palestinians there are facing famine due to the excruciatingly slow pace with which Israel has allowed aid trucks into the territory.

The charity says it has delivered 42 million meals in Gaza as of March, but aid agencies still warn that half of the population there is on the edge of famine.

As a work around to the strike checkpoints into Gaza, WCK has worked with the United Arab Emirates to deliver food to Gaza via sea, using ships that take off from Cyprus. The first such maritime food shipment arrived in Gaza March 20.

A second shipment had arrived in Gaza on Monday, carried by three ships, but the majority of food was turned back after WCK suspended operations, NBC News reported.

The group is also helping on the Israel-Lebanon border and in Israel.

Context

The deaths of the foreign aid workers have caused international frustrations and anger to soar over Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza, where more than 32,000 Palestinians have been killed and hundreds of thousands face starvation.

Israel’s military campaign has already drawn widespread condemnation and calls for a ceasefire in Gaza, but these latest aid worker deaths further worsen its global image.

The attacks are also likely to further hamper aid into the enclave, as humanitarian groups have been shown little protections by Israel in the ongoing conflict.

Israeli forces have already routinely restricted aid from entering the Gaza Strip, and even opened fire on Palestinians waiting in line for food and other essential supplies.

Gaza is now “one of the world’s most dangerous and difficult places to work,” since the start of the war, with at least 196 aid workers killed there from October to March 20, Jamie McGoldrick, interim U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory, said Tuesday in a statement.

“There is no safe place left in Gaza,” he added.

The West’s reaction

World leaders were quick to condemn Israel for the attacks, echoing WCK’s anger, calling for an investigation and demanding an explanation from Israel.

United Nations Secretary General António Guterres also admonished Israel for the airstrikes that killed WCK personnel, which he said brought the number of aid workers killed in this Israel-Hamas war to 196 – including more than 175 members of U.N. staff, which he called “unconscionable.”

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak tweeted that Israel “must explain how this tragic incident happened and take immediate steps to protect aid workers and facilitate vital humanitarian operations in Gaza.”

The country’s foreign minister David Cameron also called for an investigation into the attack.

In Poland, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that it “objects to the disregard for international humanitarian law and the protection of civilians, including humanitarian workers,” and has requested an explanation from the Israeli embassy, security forces and military.

Spain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Jose Manuel Albares, meanwhile, said he was “horrified” by the deaths of the aid workers and demanded a ceasefire and the entry of humanitarian aid.

Also calling for a ceasefire was the European Union’s humanitarian affairs commissioner Janez Lenarcic, who wrote ox X: “This must stop. Now.”

Outside of Europe, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese confirmed one of those killed was Australian national Zomi Frankcom, calling her death “completely unacceptable” and “beyond any reasonable circumstances.”

“This news today is tragic. DFAT have also requested a call-in from the Israeli ambassador as well,” Albanese said at a news conference in Brisbane, referring to Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. “We want full accountability for this. This is a tragedy that should never have occurred.”

And Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said her country condemns the strikes and wants a full investigation.

“Canada expects full accountability for these killings, and we will convey this to the Israeli government directly. Strikes on humanitarian personnel are absolutely unacceptable,” Joly wrote on X in some of the most pointed words Canada has made against Israel since the start of the conflict.

U.S. response

Tensions between the U.S. and Israel — already strained as the Biden administration has urged its ally to minimize civilian deaths and allow more aid into the strip — are likely to be further tattered in the wake of the WCK staff deaths.

Even still, Biden administration officials signaled there would be no change in U.S. support for Israel in its war against Hamas as a result.

Top national security spokesperson John Kirby on Tuesday called an Israeli strike “emblematic of a larger problem,” and that the administration was “outraged” to learn of the incident.

“We expect a broader investigation to be conducted and to be done so in a swift and comprehensive manner. We hope those findings will be made public and that there is appropriate accountability,” Kirby said at a press conference.

But while he said the U.S. would continue to press Israel to ensure the safety of humanitarian workers in Gaza, no caveats would be given and it would continue to support the Israel military.

“They’re still under a viable threat of Hamas,” Kirby said. “We’re still going to make sure they can defend themselves and the 7th of October doesn’t happen again. That doesn’t mean that it’s a free pass that we look the other way when something like this happens.”

“You want us to hang some sort of condition over their neck. And what I’m telling you is that we continue to work with the Israelis to make sure that they are precise as they can be, and that more aid is getting in, and we’re going to continue to take that approach,” he added.

In a separate press conference Tuesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken gave his condolences to those affected and said aid workers like the group’s staff had to be protected.

“We shouldn’t have a situation where people who are simply trying to help their fellow human beings are themselves at grave risk,” he said, adding that the U.S. has spoken to Israel about the incident and arranged for an impartial investigation into what happened.

But several U.S. lawmakers wanted more action on the part of the Biden administration, including Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), who called for Washington to halt its military aid to Israel as its being “used for indiscriminate killing.”

“The latest horror inflicted by Netanyahu’s air strikes on Gaza – killing brave souls at WCKitchen, delivering food to starving Palestinians,” she said in a post on X.

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) tweeted that the aid workers “were trying to feed starving people. The challenge of getting assistance into Gaza is already overwhelming — aid workers from [WCK, the U.N.] and others shouldn’t face death when distributing [assistance]. ENOUGH!”

And Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y), who has often called for a ceasefire, said “Humanitarian aid workers and civilians should never be the target of military attacks.”

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